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Widely denounced as ‘propaganda,’ Israel’s report on al-Dura calls attention to 950 other child killings

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Israel’s release of a report [full text here] asserting that 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura was not killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2000, and may not even have been injured by Israelis, has had the opposite effect to that which the government intended: The report is being widely mocked, and several commentators have turned attention to the staggering numbers of Palestinians children killed by Israel inside the occupation.

And as we indicated yesterday, The New York Times seems to have been hurt by its credulous coverage of the report. In fact, Robert Mackey at the Times today offers a far more balanced account of the report than the original story.

Some other voices. First, from a Haaretz editorial:

According to the human rights group B’Tselem, 951 children and teens were killed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza between 2000 and 2008, yet no government committee was ever established to investigate the circumstances of their deaths. Only in the al-Dura case was such a committee convened. . . .

This report doesn’t lift the fog off this case, if there ever was any. Instead, it raises a more painful issue: the many young people killed by IDF soldiers during the second intifada.

If the government had chosen to investigate that, perhaps it would have been reasonable to include a chapter on the al-Dura incident. But focusing only on him is mere propaganda that won’t in any way improve Israel’s problematic image of being responsible for too many children’s deaths.

Very similar points are made in the post, “Still Desecrating the Memory of Mohammed Al-Dura,” by the editors at the Arabist:

This NYT report by Isabel Kershner is titled “Israeli Report Casts New Doubts on Shooting in Gaza”, but if it were another country one suspects it might be titled “Government report spins  boy’s death as trial verdict looms”. The Israeli government has made hasbara about the al-Dura shooting one of its signature image campaign, regularly seeding doubt about the version recorded and witnessed by France 2 cameramen which became an iconic image of the occupation of Palestine…

  This is not an investigation, this is a government propaganda operation timed ahead of a court verdict that may further damage Israel’s image and an ongoing attempt at damage control by attempting to muddy the waters of a case that is iconic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine precisely because children are so often its victims.

On our site, Donald Johnson also commented that the case is meaningless except as a possible propaganda tool to obscure the truth.

Suppose for the sake of argument that this boy was killed by Palestinian bullets–we already know there were hundreds of Palestinian children killed by the Israelis during the Second Intifada. There’s no doubt about this. For the Israeli government, the significance of this particular case is that it was caught on camera, so they think that if they can refute this story it is a huge propaganda victory. Maybe so, from the purely amoral perspective that propagandist hacks adopt, but it doesn’t change the overall record and so there’s no reason for the NYT to frame the story this way, unless they want to serve a propagandist role themselves.

Finally, Robert Mackey at the lede blog at the Times offers a far more balanced coverage of the report than Isabel Kershner did on first impression yesterday. Mackey:

the new report, which was posted online by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, also endorsed a theory popular with pro-Israel bloggers — that the whole event might have been staged by Palestinian militants and the local cameraman who recorded the incident in order to damage Israel’s standing and create a child martyr to advance their cause.

Note that Mackey identifies the bloggers as “pro-Israel bloggers,” thereby walking back the earlier NYT account, which presented this site, the Al Durah Project, as a credible critics. The Arabist explains what a fraud that claim is: 

“this site… linked to by the NYT without identifying its ideological, propagandistic character — e.g. ‘Europeans, who repeatedly ran this footage, unwittingly waved the flag Jihad (sic) in front of their Muslim populations.’

Mackey includes this helpful info:

As the Canadian-Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman reported in 2010, Mr. Enderlin discussed the criticism of his report at length that year in an English-language interview with France 24, following the publication of his book “A Child Is Dead.”

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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22 Responses

  1. DaveS on May 21, 2013, 10:41 am

    In the long history of nonsensical denial, this ranks with the 2006 stories that the apartment building collapse in Qana, Lebanon that killed about 30 civilians was not caused by an Israeli airstrike, but was staged by Hezbollah; and the bomb on the Gaza beach that killed about eight members of one family – there was videotape of a little girl who escaped the massacre grieving in shock at finding the incinerated remains of her family – was not the result of Israeli shelling but was a Hamas landmine. The audacity of those who come up with this shit is breathtaking.

    • seafoid on May 21, 2013, 10:50 am

      Johnny Rotten with Leftfield, mid 90s, on such crap as this report

      “You lied
      You faked
      You cheated
      You changed the stakes
      Magnet toss that pie in the sky
      Unrehearsed let the bubbles burst
      All in all a three-ring circus
      Of unity with parody tragedy or comedy
      Probably publicity ”

      A new media low for Zionism. And it has the seal of the State of Israel and all.

    • Pamela Olson on May 21, 2013, 12:27 pm

      They have to engage in this kind of shameless projection — otherwise they might face the uncomfortable squirming of actually looking in the mirror and realizing what they’ve done (and perhaps even dismantling large structures of belief and ideology built on shaky foundations of a whitewashed, chauvinistic, and very selective understanding of reality).

      It’s some of the most breathtaking denial I’ve ever seen. A fascinating case study in how far the human mind can go to try to cover up its own misdeeds, in its own mind. Their axiomatic belief is that the world is out to get them, and they’re the good guys. Therefore anything that contradicts that belief must be wrong.

      All reasonable evidence must be denied if one shred of doubt can be cast. And they specialize in casting doubt, magnifying that 2% of wiggle room and ignoring the 98% of history, evidence, and common sense that most sensible people are paying attention to.

      • seafoid on May 21, 2013, 12:38 pm

        Imagine Iran stating that Anne Frank never died. Imagine the nukes.

      • Castellio on May 21, 2013, 2:00 pm

        I’m not sure you’re giving enough weight to the practical rationale for a report like this. It’s not “breathtaking denial” as much as consciously selecting, or even making up, evidence to sustain public confusion.

        Do you really think the time of public confusion is over, and this conscious tactic is no longer effective?

      • Pamela Olson on May 21, 2013, 4:33 pm

        That’s always an interesting question, Castellio — who are the shameless manipulators, careerists, and opportunists, and who are the true believers?

        Is there really a clear line between one and the other?

        I didn’t see a very clear line when I was working in Washington. It was genuinely creepy how people could more or less convince themselves of anything if not doing so hurt their social or financial standing. They simply chose which evidence to see and which evidence to ignore (and our bought-and-paid-for press made it extremely easy).

        Then again, who really knows what goes on inside any given human head?

        George Packer said something really interesting on The Daily Show the other day. He was studying Newt Gingrich’s (disastrous) effect on politics in America, but he didn’t want to interview Newt because he didn’t want to get to know him as a person. He wanted to purely study what had been the (apparent) causes and effects of Newt’s actions and ideology.

        It was fascinating to me to think that getting to know Newt might have thrown all that off — might have caused him to empathize with Newt as a father, breakfast eater, joke-maker, and all around bag of flesh and bones like the rest of us, and therefore compromised his ability to do stone-cold analysis of the man.

        Journalists have indeed spoken about meeting mass murderers like Milosevic and starting to understand “their side” just a bit better. The racism of some members of my family helps me emphatize with racists.

        At the end of the day, we are all human. You just can’t get around that. But innocent people still suffer because of the way these people behave.

        It’s not simple to know what to do in the face of all of it.

        I have to admit, I even find myself sometimes, while reading hasbara, nodding along as if it makes sense. Then I shake my head and remind myself of the other 85% of the story they’re not telling.

        Many people don’t have that 85% (or more) to help pull them out of the morass, because they’re not looking there, because they’re convinced it’s nothing more than a plot to undermine their safety.

        There’s some real mental gymnastics going on here. It’s all a very complex and fascinating and maddening thing to try to understand.

      • DaveS on May 21, 2013, 5:03 pm

        who are the shameless manipulators, careerists, and opportunists, and who are the true believers?

        Is there really a clear line between one and the other?

        I agree with you, Pamela. It’s an interesting question, but ultimately irrelevant. I often wonder whether Dershowitz, or Wasserman-Schultz, or Schumer, or any number of other people genuinely believe what they say and could pass a lie-detector test, or are bought and paid for, or whatever. My hunch is that most are genuine believers – I certainly know many such PEP people in my family – but while it’s interesting, it doesn’t really matter. Bad actions supported by bad opinions are bad, regardless of the motivation.

      • American on May 21, 2013, 6:39 pm

        Bad actions supported by bad opinions are bad, regardless of the motivation.”” David


      • Sycamores on May 21, 2013, 7:21 pm

        hi Pamela Olson,

        i recognized your fair mindedness and your empathy towards others – two worthy vitures.

        but it sounds like you over analyse things, something that we all do at times but it’s not necessary a good thing to do all of the time.
        my belief is that hasbara needs a more reactive response before it gets too much ground and the lies start to get assimilated into mainstream media.

        in other words ‘mental gymnastics’ could be partly down to over analysing.

      • ritzl on May 21, 2013, 9:42 pm

        @Pamela Olsen @David Samel (and Castillio), …So a writer and a lawyer walk into a blog to discuss relevance… Fascinating! in the most sincere way possible. :)

        I guess it never really dawned on me just how textured the effort is to support the Palestinians. To me as a [over?] simplifier, that effort is just full-on poking (whatever that means) all the time. But here you all open that up a bit. To Pam that support seems to lie within the explainable and to David it seems to reside within the actionable. That doesn’t do any of your comments justice, but the need for the collective engagement of your respective self-selecting audiences for each approach to the problem is critical to its (justice) success. I think you all just described/roadmapped how that collective engagement can be enabled.

        Again, fascinating. Maybe all this is obvious to others more involved in advocacy, but this exchange opened my eyes a bit. Thanks.

      • ritzl on May 21, 2013, 2:34 pm

        Israel is a freaking country-wide “Milgram” experiment. They can hear the screams, but keep pushing the button. Diverse and increasingly bizarre rationalizations ensue… (internally and externally)

        Great comment, Pam.

      • Keith on May 21, 2013, 3:08 pm

        PAMELA OLSON- “…perhaps even dismantling large structures of belief and ideology built on shaky foundations….”

        True enough, however, this would apply to virtually all systems of power throughout world history. Witness the white man’s burden, responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention as misrepresentations of imperial aggression. Elite run societies need to misrepresent reality in order to manufacture consent from a citizenry eager to be deceived. Bullshit is the lubricant which allows empires and local hegemons to function.

  2. American on May 21, 2013, 12:10 pm

    Besides not being the job of the US to monitor anti semitism in other countries..what would we do about it anyway? ……Isr and the zionist will keep right on creating anti semitism.

    ”Kerry names Ira Forman as U.S. anti-Semitism envoy ”

    The State Department announced the appointment the same day it released its 2012 report on religious freedom that recorded a ‘continued global increase in anti-Semitism.

  3. David Doppler on May 21, 2013, 1:03 pm

    Good to see the appropriate label applied to the Israeli Report and the NYTimes report: propaganda. Let them explain the other 950 children killed. Let them feel the anger of ordinary, rational Americans of every ethnic background who find such efforts to explain away the murder of innocent children while supported with US tax dollars to be outrageous.

  4. seafoid on May 21, 2013, 2:35 pm

    Imagine the nyt covering a 36 pager by the klan saying rodney king was never beaten and it was all a black plot to discredit the LAPD. Or Kershner stenographing that Matthew Shepherd made it all up for the purposes of dissing heteros and that he is still alive.

    • IL1948 on May 21, 2013, 10:15 pm

      Apples and oranges

      • Woody Tanaka on May 22, 2013, 9:30 am

        “Apples and oranges”

        Yeah, because to judeo-supremacists like you, racist crimes committed by Jews against oppressed people MUST be treated differently than crimes committed by others against other oppressed people.

  5. Sherri Munnerlyn on May 21, 2013, 2:42 pm

    I was looking at the child fatalaties since September of 2000. Israel has killed 1519 Palestinian children since then. Their names and how they died, it is all addressed in Remember These Children website. Most were killed in unlawful targetings under intl law. Btselem also has lists like this on their website. Their figures are a slight bit lower, 1340 approximately, but their data has not been updated past 10/31/2012 and the fatalaties of children killed is listed for children killed by Israeli Forces and does not include children killed by settlers.

    • seafoid on May 21, 2013, 3:15 pm

      And to say they killed just one is a blood libel according to Israel.

  6. thankgodimatheist on May 22, 2013, 6:35 am

    Plantu, the iconic Le Monde cartoonist, dedicates a piece for Charles Enderlin and Al Durra:
    “You know son! You’ve been spotted around the souk this morning again”

  7. Ecru on May 22, 2013, 12:19 pm

    …focusing only on him is mere propaganda that won’t in any way improve Israel’s problematic image…

    It’s the killing of f*cking children that’s the problem not the f*cking image!

  8. DaBakr on May 24, 2013, 2:37 pm

    In context-the al-Dura incident of course is just one of MANY deaths of children in the long running conflict. Both Palestinian children and israeli children have died (been murdered) by Palestinian militants and IDF forces.

    Still-IF, and I do say “if” it can be proved that the al-dera case was set-up or just reported with bias- it will be a VERY small ‘feather’ in the cap of the Israeli propaganda unit. I seriously doubt even generally sympathetic Americans who are NOT particularly pro-Israel will consider the al-Dura revelation anything more then the continuous tit-for-tat that the US press seems to enjoy playing up.

    However-if it IS true and there is ANY merit to what the Israeli report has come up with then it should be published and given the chance to stand up against any scrutiny fairly leveled or challenged.

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